Re: DSM: [SVS Discussion Board] questions


Andrew Smallman (andy@pscs.org)
Tue, 18 Apr 2000 08:42:22 -0700 (PDT)


Everyone,

I really don't have anything to add to this current discussion. I just
want to support Alan and his continually gentle and thoughtful remarks
that, I think, raise awareness about issues of power and privilege in our
society. I thought I might just send him a provate message of support and
thanks. Then I thought it was appropriate to say this in front of
everyone on the list.

Thanks, Alan, for helping me to see things from a broader picture!

        ---Andy

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Andrew Smallman, Director
Puget Sound Community School - http://www.pscs.org
andy@pscs.org - http://www.pscs.org/~andy/
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On Tue, 18 Apr 2000, Alan Klein wrote:

> Joe,
>
> Thanks for your thoughtful and thought provoking posting. I resonate with
> your concern that we not allow others to frame the assumptions behind a
> discussion/argument, but rather do this mutually.
>
> In this case, however, I am not sure what all the fuss is about. The
> question, "Is the student body multicultural?", simply asks for demographic
> information (or at least a summary thereof); information that would be
> available, for example, through a census. It makes no attempt to place a
> value judgment or a hierarchy on the information.
>
> It seems it would have been very easy for Scott or Mimsy to reply (I am
> making these numbers up), "We have about an equal mix of male and female
> students and staff. About 90% of the student body is white, as is all of the
> staff at this time. Most of the rest of the 10% is Asian. We really don't
> know about religious affiliation, but there seems to be a mixture. The
> percentage of Jewish students and staff is probably a little above that of
> the local population. We don't formally track our students (or staff's)
> sexual orientation, but there are a few openly gay and lesbian students and
> one staff member. Socio-economic class is always hard to tell, since we
> don't ask such questions, but we know that our student body runs the gamut
> from folks who scrimp and save just to make our (low) tuition payments to
> those who are pretty well off. Most seem solidly middle-class." This could
> have been accompanied by a statement such as the one you make in terms of
> the most important criteria being that people come who want to come.
>
> Multiculturalism, for me, is simply a fact; it is either there or not. When
> I do a "diversity" workshop, as I did the other day, with a team of 25
> workers from a major high-tech manufacturing company who are all white, all
> male, almost all Protestant, and who's average tenure with the company was
> 31.5 years I feel on safe ground to say that there was not much
> multiculturalism within that group. Nothing wrong with that. It was just a
> fact. My tack with them was to look at themselves as individuals and to look
> at the similarities and differences they embodied. We talked about how they
> handle those differences and looked at effective ways to take advantage of
> them and to lessen the complexities of doing so.
>
> It is easy for me (a white, middle-class, straight, guy whose mental and
> physical capabilities are in fairly good order) to say (as you did),
> "(these) alleged generalized differences between individuals based on their
> color, religion and presumed ancestry...(are an) arcane and increasingly
> obsolete manner in which to generalize traits between people! - color is
> increasingly not related to the nationality (-ies) and family culture;
> religion is increasingly not related to any generalized cultural traits
> whatsoever, and the entire arrangement only serves to reinforce prejudices."
> The experience of those who are not of the majority/power groups in this
> society is too ubiquitous to ignore, however. race, gender, sexual
> orientation, and religion are still ways in which people are routinely
> treated unfairly, i.e., they are not treated according to "the actual
> differences between individuals", as you and I both advocate. To ignore this
> is to blind ourselves to the realities of the lives of all to many people.
>
> ~Alan
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
> > Hi - Joe from Fairhaven School in Maryland
> >
> > I would probably had gotten defensive if I were asked the question "Is the
> > student body multicultural?" because that is an inherently attacking
> > question. Attacks compel people to defend. I believe whether Scott
> > appeared evasive or defensive is largely immaterial as the questioner made
> > no attempt to disguise the attacking nature of the question.
> >
> > That particular question is completely predicated on an item of
> conventional
> > wisdom that there is a hierarchy of multiculturalism that is based not on
> > the actual differences between individuals, but between the alleged
> > generalized differences between individuals based on their color, religion
> > and presumed ancestry. An arcane and increasingly obsolete manner in
> which
> > to generalize traits between people! - color is increasingly not related
> to
> > the nationality (-ies) and family culture; religion is increasingly not
> > related to any generalized cultural traits whatsoever, and the entire
> > arrangement only serves to reinforce prejudices.
> >
> > The true multiculturalism is a group of people who, for example, have
> widely
> > disparate opinions of the definition of the word "multiculturalism".
> > Getting a bunch of people of different colors who all think
> multiculturalism
> > means having a bunch of people of different colors is homogeneity in the
> > most non-superficial sense. Differences in the actual content of people's
> > character cut across all supposed categories of race and creed,
> silhouetting
> > the degree of true diversity.
> >
> > In any case, the various opinions of what constitutes multiculturalism
> > should take a back seat at our schools to the obvious sole criterion of
> who
> > should be on the rolls - the folks that want to be there the most.
> >
> > Removing obstacles, financial and otherwise, is an entirely different and
> > unrelated subject. They should be though of in two distinct steps: 1) You
> > market the school loudly, getting the word out to as many people as
> > possible, using the best judgment you can as humans to decide where and
> how
> > to market, then 2)you do what Alan said, which is sit back and wait for
> the
> > ones who really want it to come.
> >
> > Back to the question - it's a trap: only someone who advocates that mere
> > visible and religious diversity define multiculturalism would ask it, so
> to
> > answer yes or no based on the questioner's interpretation is to tacitly
> > endorse that view. To answer yes or no based on a literal definition of
> > multiculturalism (as I think Scott did) looks like one is evading the
> > question. Any question one cannot answer without either capitulating or
> > appearing esoteric is a manipulation and therefore an attack.
>



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